Last Saturday, I traveled to St. Anthony’s in Casper to provide the priest coverage for the weekend. I arrived in time to hear confessions from 3-5 and celebrate the 5:15 Vigil Mass. It was great to spend some time in the confessional once again. As a bishop, I do not often get the chance to exercise this particular ministry of my priesthood. It reminded me of the great gift given us by Jesus when He entrusted this power to forgive sins to His Apostles, which remains in the priesthood today. (see John 20)
After celebrating the four weekend Masses at St. Anthony, I celebrated the 7am Mass on Monday and then departed for Clark to visit our Wyoming Camelite Monks. They provided their usual hospitality. During my stay, I had a three hour meeting with their Chapter to discuss their recent Visitation and ongoing work on their Constitutions and plans for the future. I continue to be impressed with how “regular” the members of this community are, complimented by their extraordinary dedication to the Church, and their personal pursuit of holiness. God only knows how much we benefit from their dedication to prayer.
I left the monks around 2:00 on Wednesday for a return trip to Casper. Between the wildfire burning within sight of the monastery and the larger one burning southwest of Meteesee, I do not think I drew a clean breath of air all the way to Casper! Things are very dry here in the West at the moment, and besides the present fires burning, the threat for more fires lumes large.
After Mass on Wednesday morning, I took a quick trip to St. Anthony Tri-parish school for the opening day of this academic year. I could not help but remember many other such school openings from my day as a pastor in several other parishes with schools. (Oh, for the simpler days of a parish priest!) I joined the two of the three Casper pastors for the opening prayer service. There was a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm as another year begins. The people in Casper have a beautiful new school, and their enrollment this year is up to 305 students! Congratulations Casper Catholics!
Wednesday afternoon and Thursday I was in the office taking care of business. I will share with this readership that our priest shortage is very real, and is a source of constant prayer and concern for this bishop. Last week, the final report and recommendations landed on my desk from the Task Force on Pastoral Leadership in the Diocese.
I will be sharing more of this information in the future, once I have a chance to adequately digest and study the report and recommendations. But this much is certain, our people need to grow in their awareness of the fact that our preists are already being asked to do more than their fair share. They are very generous, but they are human, and I believe have reached the limit of what the People of God can expect of them.
When a priest retires or gets ill or takes a leave of absence, there is no other priest behind them to take their place. I am doing my best to identify other bishops around the globe who are willing to share qualified priests with our diocese. This reality is now upon us. Please pray for our priests. Please pray for vocations to the priesthood. We continue to face our future with the hope that is ours in the Risen Christ. He promised us in this Sunday’s Gospel once again that the jaws of death will never prevail against His Church. In Christ is our hope and our Salvation!